It was long in coming this season, the first raising of the ‘canvas’ over Lifeline’s deck, so very much of her master’s work necessarily being diverted to his Master’s work. The latter provided the former with some relief, and in company with His given heart the dock lines were loosed and Lifeline made way.
Whoa… If I write any more poetically I’ll be on my way to a novel instead of a story. How many more readers will I lose?
Father’s Day evening turned out to be a wonderful time for shaking down the boat. The mild southerly drafts raised and lowered as the clouds covered the sinking sun and alternately strained and slacked the rigging. The stays are not set for the trials of racing as the slack leeward set freely dangled from the mast on either testing tack. Downwind reaches proved the strength of the new backstay rig, though the whipping holding the ends of the lines and the eyes together showed more attention was required. Two of seven came undone. Fair leads spun with precision, boom tackle responded with ease, and the vang worked with the lightest touch. Only the main halyard challenged us, and our gratitude goes out to our shipmates whose party we held up when they attempted to tack.
The weekend must have been a party for the rest of those at the docks. Only three other sets of sails were raised while we were out, including the afore mentioned revelers. While she was the largest of the vessels, another Catalina was sprinting about. And, our neighbors from B31, ‘Vestal’ graced the water as well.
I put Lifeline through a rotation around the compass. A starboard tack took us across the lake once the main was set. Mindy flipped on the GPS and speed sensor and we watched those as we eased across toward the Galena ramp. We came about when we reached the wake buoys and beat to port towards the spillway. From midway across the lake I fell off the wind to a beam reach, then to a broad reach, and we jibed to the opposite tack and on around until we were close hauled to starboard again. It was enough. Lifeline proved ready to sail.
The above is a ‘stock’ picture, taken north of South Bass Island on Lake Erie. Sailors on Alum Creek lake will periodically see the Donate Life logo and know it is ‘Lifeline’.
I fell back off to a starboard beam reach, then back down to run up the lake. Back and forth I jibed the boat while Mindy took some supper. We packed a simple fare of meat, cheese, and Ritz, a couple bananas, with water and Gatorade to quench the thirst. We switched so I could enjoy the same and my evening was set when I heard her say, “This is fun!” Our shakedown became an evening sail, near to the Cheshire causeway and back, and though the two hours did not quite bring us to meet the near full moon, it was enough to satisfy the long winter break.
Our ‘Blessing of the Fleet’ was prayed as we beat back south. Prayers were given at the dock in the past. This ‘first sail’ evening was made for such devotion, and together we read from Psalms and sang. Mindy and I have been blending our voices for forty years. On the water this night we blended them with the beating of the breeze on sails and waves on the hull. We offered prayers for the safety of those on deck, of Lifeline and all other boats on the lake this year.
She is forty-two years old, Lifeline is. Her wood is clean, but needs some attention again if only a bit of oil. Her gel-coat shows the cracks of age and stress, and her deck needs a coat of wax to help keep it clean. She sports a new tiller, the old one finally splitting from years of tension. Each year a few new lines replace older and worn ones. She’s a fine ‘sea bird’ as one screen writer called another vessel, and continuous attention to her will provide a few more years of calm evening sails and exciting challenges of racing. Her crew looks forward to both in the coming months.
I have copies of the Blessing of the Fleet aboard, should anyone be interested in sharing the same for their vessel. Ours is a decidedly Christian prayer in the traditions of European seaports.